Dynamic Risk Assessment: How to include it in Your Lone Worker Policy

November 2, 2020
Caroline Preece

You may have heard that your business needs to do a risk assessment, but what about a dynamic risk assessment? 

While the two use many of the same principles, a dynamic risk assessment is designed to be used by employees when a situation requires immediate decision making.

A more malleable method clears the way for businesses to assess risk based on real-time situations, rather than hypothetical scenarios mapped out beforehand.

Both have their place, of course, and a general risk assessment is required to craft a good health and safety policy for the business as a whole.

Dynamic risk assessments, meanwhile, are often required for high-risk roles where an extra layer of awareness and protection is needed.

In this article, we will cover the ways in which a dynamic risk assessment will help your organisation keep its lone workers safe while out in the field, and how your existing policy should inform your approach. 

Risk assessment basics

A risk assessment, in basic terms, is the process of determining the hazards posed in the workplace as the first step to mitigating them or eliminating them altogether.

Every business needs to do this in order to meet legal health and safety requirements, and the results should be used as part of a broader health and safety policy that covers employees, contractors, customers and anyone else who could be impacted by the business.

The steps to completing a satisfactory risk assessment and lone worker policy include:

  • Identifying environmental hazards posed to your employees, e.g. slips, trips and falls; working at height
  • Identifying social hazards, e.g. working with the public
  • Ensuring basic needs are catered for e.g. drinking water; access to bathrooms
  • Create a policy based on the results - if you have more than five employees, write it down
  • Make this policy available to all staff
  • Assign someone to be in charge of enforcing health and safety measures

What is a dynamic risk assessment?

By building on the central concepts and practices of a basic risk assessment, a dynamic risk assessment takes things one step further to allow the creation of something in real-time.

This means that companies are being proactive with their policies rather than reactive, which can make a big difference.

The main difference is that dynamic risk assessments are usually performed by workers on ‘the ground’, rather than their supervisors or the organisation’s overarching health and safety officer. It’s therefore based on more granular, detailed information and can be adapted and changed quickly if a situation changes.

Dynamic risk assessments are especially useful when it comes to protecting lone workers, as there are often hazards that only those doing the day-to-day job are aware of.

The people who are most likely to benefit from a dynamic risk assessment include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Care providers visiting people in their homes
  • Retail workers
  • Security guards 
  • Police
  • Healthcare professionals

One example from the above list is a retail worker who has been left in the store with a customer. That customer begins to act threateningly, and the worker must assess whether the customer is likely to attack them, has a weapon, and whether they are able to alert security via a silent alarm or personal safety device.

While some things can be prepared for ahead of time, such as equipping workers who might be at risk with tools like lone worker alarms, many aspects will be based on the employee’s own instincts, and the evidence presented directly in front of them.

If the threat is deemed low, for example, the worker may decide to deal with the customer themselves, asking them to leave. If this doesn’t work, they may choose to alert a nearby co-worker or the authorities.

A different example would be a healthcare worker who regularly does home visits. Whenever they enter a property, they must decide whether it is safe for them to do so, whether for themselves or for the occupant. 

Could someone in the house pose a danger? Does the property contain environmental factors such as tripping hazards or dangerous substances? Does the worker have access to help if something happens?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered.

Be prepared for anything

The notion of creating and implementing a more agile way of assessing risk for your organisation is particularly appropriate for 2020, which has created or heightened many additional hazards and barriers for employees working in some of the most high-risk roles. 

The healthcare worker mentioned above would also need to consider whether they and the occupant both had the required PPE to safely be closer than 2 metres apart, for example, whereas this probably would not have been the case before.

A massive part of being able to assess risk in the moment or ‘on the fly’ is tapping into a heightened awareness of surroundings, whether that’s being able to read body language or having such an understanding of environmental dangers than they can be identified almost immediately upon entering a space.

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to keep your lone worker policy practical and up-to-date is to speak with employees about their experiences on the job.

Offering the appropriate advice and training on dynamic risk assessment means that they will be more able to offer actionable information that can then be used to protect them and their colleagues in the future.

How can we help?

Ensuring workers are better able to assess risk is a significant first step towards keeping them safe, but they also need the tools to take action when a situation is deemed unsafe.

Often this can take the form of training in de-escalation tactics if someone is threatening them, or it can be something like a personal safety alarm, bodyworn camera or another piece of equipment. 

Giving these devices to employees who may find themselves in a scenario that puts their safety at risk allows them to call for help discreetly. Or if they are incapacitated and are unable to do so, many lone worker alarms are equipped with a built-in Man Down sensor that detects when the user has fallen. 

To find out more about how Vatix can help you to keep employees safe, or if you want to learn more about our services, click here or call us on 020 3820 1857.